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By the time she was sixteen, Saundra was ordained at St. Mary's and received a minister's license.
"Any boy that took me to homecoming took a minister to homecoming. Any boy that took me to prom took a minister to prom," she says. That meant she didn't mess around in the back seats of cars or do the things other teenage girls were doing.
"All those boys with all their tricks, they never even got to first base with Saundra," her brother Ronald says. "She was too busy chasin' after God."
After Saundra finished high school, she went off to study agriculture at Lincoln University in Jefferson City. Students who knew her from Kansas City circulated a petition to allow her to evangelize in the campus chapel. She would get up at dawn every morning to deliver fifteen-minute inspirations on campus radio. She spent her spare time visiting the sick in hospitals or the elderly in nursing homes, and she once organized a trip for a prison choir from the state penitentiary to St. Mary's Tabernacle in Kansas City.
Her slogan was "Saundra McFadden, the preacher, the teacher, the mind reacher." She used to say that all the time, her brother Lonnie remembers.
Those who heard her preach felt she had a gift for it. She wasn't like preachers who would write sermons and practice them in front of a mirror. She never needed notes. The sermons just came pouring out.
After college, Saundra moved back to Kansas City and met Rickey Winfield through friends who sang in a choir with him. The two got to know each other over a few years and, when Saundra was 24, they married.
That year, Saundra began to feel that God was telling her to go back to the AME denomination. It is the largest historically black Methodist denomination in the United States, with more than 2.5 million members. It split from the United Methodists in 1816 because of conflicts over the treatment of African-Americans.
Pastor Ron Williams visited Saundra and sat in her living room, explaining to her and Rickey the process of ordination in the AME church. The first step was to surrender any other church's ministerial credentials and start anew. She would study under Pastor Williams' supervision at Ward Chapel, and he would recommend to the church that they ordain her when he felt she was ready. Williams, a young man just a few years older than Saundra, had a sturdy look about him and a soft, lilting voice. His commitment to the ministry seemed steadfast. Saundra put her trust in him and gave up her credentials from St. Mary's.
Saundra soon had a baby boy, Rickey Jr. Working hard, holding down a job as a Pizza Hut manager and pursuing her AME ordination, Saundra became depressed. She had always wanted to be a pastor, a wife and a mother. But she doubted her husband's fidelity, and he acknowledges to the Pitch that he had extramarital affairs. He told her it was her fault. She was inexperienced, and he said she was too uptight in bed.
When there was trouble in life, Saundra had always gone to her pastor. So she told Pastor Williams of the marital tensions. She asked him to refer her to a marriage counselor. He said he had a degree in pastoral counseling, and he offered to meet with her and Rickey.
They met at Williams' parsonage. The couple sat on a couch and Williams sat on a chair, and they talked about the sexual problems in the marriage. During the third or fourth session, which took place without Rickey, Williams turned to Saundra and told her he had diagnosed her problem.